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Proposed Red Deer capital budget includes new ambulances, Centennial Park re-do

Capital spending recommendations for 2023, 2024 are pared down from previous years

Centennial Park Plaza improvements, planning for an Indigenous Cultures Centre and a major upgrade of the CPR pedestrian bridge are among the new capital funding requests Red Deer city council is considering for 2023-24.

Among the biggest costs, if approved, would be the $5.6 million City of Red Deer contribution towards upgrading the 114-year-old bridge. The city money would be added to an $11 million federal grant that was approved for the project.

Coun. Victor Doerksen asked whether this money could instead be transferred towards building a new bridge connecting Capstone with Bower Ponds.

City Manager Tara Lodewyk responded the federal grant is tied to the CPR bridge project, which entails replacing some supports as well as the bridge deck. She described this as a must-do, as the city is responsible for ensuring the safety and preservation of its infrastructure.

Council heard the CPR Bridge is an important link in Red Deer’s trail system and it’s time for the upgrade. If the CPR bridge was decommissioned, it would cost the city about as much ($5.6 million.)

Planning for a regional Indigenous Cultures Centre could get underway if council approved $250,000 over two years in 2023 and 2024. The budget would be used for the community to work together to define a concept for the centre, which has no location confirmed at this time

Getting construction off the ground would require a funding commitment from the city of $4.5 million in 2025. Council heard this wouldn’t be enough for the entire project but would be a good starting point from which to apply for matching government grants.

City Manager Tara Lodewyk said this is an important project, a way to act on advancing Truth and Reconciliation.

Coun. Lawrence Lee said he believes in the importance of this project but wondered if it could be expanded to include spaces for other cultures to use. Lee noted Red Deer contains people of many backgrounds, including Ukrainians and more recent arrivals from Syrian and Africa.

Sarah Tittmore, the city’s general manager of community services, said the community consultation process could be expanded to ask the Indigenous community whether its cultural centre should be a stand-alone facility or connected to a larger multi-cultural centre.

The Centennial Park Plaza improvements include reopening a public dialogue about what to do with the closed wading pool and washroom currently in the plaza that’s south of the downtown McDonald’s restaurant. City officials want to see whether Red Deerians still favour constructing a future spray park and safer public washrooms in the plaza, as suggested in a 2016 community involvement survey.

Actual funding for the plaza redevelopment would come from Municipal Sustainability Initiative funding of $206,000 in 2024, with a “placeholder for $794,000 in 2025. Lodewyk said this project would be part of an initiative to bring more positive activities to the downtown.

The capital budget includes maintaining city utilities infrastructure and city fleets. About $3.5 million is proposed for replacing large equipment, including graders and excavators.

Also proposed is spending $2.4 million to purchase seven new ambulances. The City of Red Deer is negotiating a contract with Alberta Health Services to get to operate three to five new ambulances — in addition to the five that are now on the road.

Emergency call volumes have risen by 33 per cent in recent years, said protective services general manager Ken McMullen. He noted that, in addition to the up-to-five new ambulances required when the service contract with AHS is signed, two additional back-up ambulances would also be needed.